Action Research

I’m assisting with Peter Taylor’s class “Action Research for Educational, Professional and Personal Change”.  In considering the “Cycles and Epicycles” framework, it occurs to me I have been most familiar with the concept of participatory action research which I see now is a type of action research (no duh).  I had thought of action research being linked to working with those in the field or with those who normally would be seen as “objects” of research.  I can see in this definition that the “process” focus of focusing on a concrete problem or situation that is then constantly evaluated.  I can also see where this links to other forms of qualitative research where the researcher is part of the process of defining the question and iteratively feeding back into.  This seems to be a more natural way of coming to knowledge to me.  The idea of exploring something, finding something out, testing it, going back, modifying, and slowly “tweaking” the research as new knowledge comes to the table.  I see the value of more “experimental” type research designs, but these sorts of methods seem more “true” to me.

Also, more than a circle, I can tend to think of these processes as spiral in shape.  There is movement forward / back or up/ down, but at the same time a backtracking and revisiting throughout.  This too I think is more attuned to how the “human”mind works.  I can easily see where an orderly progression of the steps may not happen as well as there is movement back and forth around the various elements.  It would seem that being aware of these steps, however, is critical.

I would say from my own experience that the steps of reflection and dialogue may short-changed just as coming to plans and actions come the easiest.  Evaluation and feedback also seem to get pushed aside when there is a crunch on time.  It would seem we can find outselves then working in ways that may be inefficient and counterproductive and or stagnate or stall as a result of inability to move beyond barriers or blocks.